Archives for: November 2008
I have blogged about my struggles in the past with green tea. For awhile, I thought it was the caffeine in the tea that was the culprit. But black tea did not affect me the way green tea did so I knew it couldn’t be the caffeine. Green tea just made me feel… I dunno… weird for lack of a better word. I tried all different brands of tea, regular and decaffeinated, but was always left with a strange feeling after drinking it. So I gave up on tea.
I then tried a couple different types of white tea on a whim and low and behold, it was a completely new experience. Since then, tea has become something of a hobby of mine, and I keep about 10 or so different types of green tea as regulars and try different ones all the time. I am also starting to collect teaware, a true sign of a tea junkie! So if you are having difficulties enjoying green tea, here are some suggestions:
1. Throw away your green tea bags. Sorry to say but it is true. Green tea cannot be brewed properly in a sealed tea bag. Nor in a tea ball. In order for the tea to steep properly, the water must freely circulate around and through the tea leaves. A small single serving size tea pot or brewing vessel designed for green tea is best. Many have a built in strainer that allows for free flow of water around the leaves. But I have had much success with many grades of tea with just an infuser basket in a ceramic mug. Brewing in teaware will improve your experience of high grade teas, but it is not necessary.
2. Invest in high quality loose leaf tea. This is the one that made the difference for me in tea enjoyment. Quality makes all the difference. And the aroma from high quality tea is unbelievable. You will notice the difference just in the fragrance of the tea. Do not be surprised if you find yourself opening the canister of dried tea leaves just to smell it. High quality teas will often be hand harvested and tell the region and harvest of the tea. First harvest new leaf teas are the highest grade. Freshness is also important. Tea degrades when exposed to oxygen and high end teas will be shipped in nitrogen flushed packages. Expect to pay $10-$20 per 50 grams (1.75 oz.). But you can get several steeps out of a single serving… sometimes as many as 4 or 5 steeps before the flavor begins to go flat, depending on the type of tea. For those of you that do not have a tea store nearby, many teaheads think that the best commercially available tea in the US is Rishi Tea. Whole Foods often carry their tea in bulk so you can experiment with a few varieties that you might like. They have a really nice Jasmine Pearl and their Genmaicha and Sencha are not too bad. And the Silver Needles white tea from Rishi is one of the best Silver Needles available, imo. And it is a much cheaper way to experiment than ordering tea direct from Asian distributors.
2. Check the quality of your water. I am fortunate in that our municipal water supply is essentially treated snowmelt. We are a first-use community with no recycled water in our water supply and our tap water is better than many bottled waters out there. I do filter my drinking water though and find that filtered water is adequate for most green teas. Except for Sencha which is a tricky beast. Taste test your drinking water against spring water. If the spring water tastes sweet to you, you might want to brew your tea in spring water or a combination of spring and filtered or tap water.
3. Be vigilant about water temperature. Most green teas brew best with a water temp of 160-175 F (71-79 C). Many green tea recommendations say to brew green teas at 180 F (82 C) but I find that is too hot of a temperature for many teas and can lead to a very bitter brew. Where I live, water boils at 190 F so it is fairly easy to get a good water temperature. I just grab the tea kettle when a thin line of steam is coming from it.
4. Experiment with tea leaf amounts and brewing time. This is one that really depends on personal preference. I like milder infusions for most types of tea. For Japanese teas, I do very short steep times but a little more leaf. With Chinese teas, less leaves and longer steeps. The general (and I mean general) rule of thumb is about 6 to 8 grams (1.5 to 2 tsp.) per 8 oz of water steeped for 2 minutes. Do not stir the leaves. Let the pot or cup steep undisturbed.
5. Green tea should not taste bitter. Some teas, like Sencha, are naturally astringent (read bitter) but the bitterness should not be overwhelming. If your brew is bitter, try steeping it for a shorter time and at a lower temperature. There is a sweet spot for every type of tea and sometimes it takes experimenting to find where that is. I know I’ve brewed Sencha properly when it tastes green and vegetal with just a bite of bitterness at the end of the swallow. If you really dislike any type of bitterness , try white tea. It is the easiest to brew in terms of bitterness and is quite mild in flavor. It is essentially a green tea but the very first tiny leaf buds which are often covered in soft white hairs that give the leaf a white appearance.
Now I am just a novice in the art of tea brewing but these suggestions greatly increased my enjoyment and pleasure of tea. Perhaps with a little patience and experimenting, you too will experience the marvels of this ‘precious dew’ in a cup.